Colombia’s security forces and farmers eradicated 87,571 hectares of marijuana, poppy and coca, the base ingredient for cocaine, the country’s defense minister said Thursday.
In a tweet, Defense Minister Guillermo Botero said that the security forces forcibly eradicated 60, 016 hectares of illicit crops.
This is considerably less than the 70,000 hectares of just coca set as a target by Botero’s predecessor, Luis Carlos Villegas, in June.
Another 27,555 hectares were voluntarily eradicated by farmers that take part in a crop substitution program that is part of a peace process with the demobilized FARC guerrilla group, according to Botero.
Also this is considerably less than the 50,000-hectare target set by Villegas in May last year.
Botero did not specify how many of the eradicated hectares related to coca, the cultivation of which reached record levels in 2017, according to the United Nations.
Coca cultivation vs eradication and fumigation
Source: UNODC / WOLA
The minister said that the administration of President Ivan Duque increased the number of eradication units from 23 to 73 and increased the number of eradication of illicit crops from 136 per day to 211 per day.
Whether the increased efforts to eradicate coca led to an effective reduction of coca cultivation will not be known until mid-2019 when the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime releases its annual report on illicit crops in Colombia.
United States officials told Colombian newspaper El Tiempo in February that they expected cocaine production to reach new record heights in 2018.
The governments of Colombia and the US, the world’s largest cocaine consumption market, agreed in March to a long-term joint strategy that seeks to reduce coca cultivation from 171,000 to 90,000 hectares in 2023.
The new strategy seeks to not just eradicate coca, but disrupt the cocaine trade on multiple fronts, for example by making it more difficult to obtain chemicals needed to produce the drug and targeting money launderers.